review by Jamie Edwards / photos by Jacob Gibbins.
We’re scooping up hardtails left, right and center at the moment. In the last month we’ve had a final look at the DMR Trailstar, we’ve sampled the new Ritchey Timberwolf, the Stif Morf and this German big-wheeler, the Merida Big Trail 900. I’m not sure what’s going on but the fun, slightly terrifying, break kneck, hop-and-go feel of hardtails is floating our boat right now. Could be a winter thing?
With the Merida’s visit being sweet – but very short – we didn’t get a huge amount of time on its jumbo sized wheels. What we did get was some very fun laps of our local trails sampling the delights of the German big wheeler. Here’s a super-quick lap of the local woods on the top of the range Merida Big Trail 900.
Right – first things first – this bright orange Tonka truck is Merida’s highest spec and highest price version in the Big Trail range. She clocks in at a not inconsiderable £2,600 which – in my book at least – is serious money for a bike without a rear damper. Not least considering that a YT Capra CF Comp costs £2500 and a Nukeproof Mega Comp costs £2800 – both stellar pieces of kit. If you’re less willing to part with the cash there’s a more modestly priced and specced version running down to £1250 for the Big Trail 600.
Rock Shox Pike RC suspension fork
1 x 11 Sram X1
DT Swiss Spline XM 1501 ONE 40 “Boost” wheels
Sram Guide R hydraulic disc brakes
Rock Shox Reverb Stealth dropper post
I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t the spec, angles or price that drew be to the Big Trail. It was the look of the thing – I just love how fun and up for a scuffle it looks. It’s big, it’s slack, it’s chunky. It looks like a normal bike only inflated a bit and made to look like a toy bike rather than a spindly weed. I love that, it looks fun and makes me want to go hoon it round the woods. There’s a lot to be said for a bike that sits in your house and calls out to you “come on mate, let’s go for a shred!”.
One fast German
Our local trails aren’t mountains – they’re typically British with tight, twisty, rooty, muddy stuff and a bit of surfaced trails. Lots of flat, lots of short ups and downs. Lots of tight corners.
Throwing the Big Trail into the surfaced trails was an interesting reminder that plus size wheels don’t mean slow and sluggish. It rips along with the positive blast of a short, stiff, ali back end. Covering ground in a hurry was no problem for the German.
Into the undergrowth
Veering off into the undergrowth and down the off-piste is where the chunky shapes of the Merida come to the fore. The 67.5° head angle and roomy-but-not-crazy reach (425mm on our medium bike) makes the bike a super enjoyable ride – you can chuck it around really nicely, throw it into turns and work the trail to have fun and go fast. I had a big grin on my face riding the Merida. The short stem and wide bar do nothing to discourage that.
The Merida’s short 130mm Pike fork was a surprise. Despite being the shortest travel fork I’ve ridden this year I didn’t feel any lack of teeth on our local trails. The extra cushioning of the monster truck 2.8″ Maxxis Rekon tyres made up for a lack of travel, helped by some good geometry. I had a blast chucking the bike into wet rocks and across over-ridden rooty sections – pushing the Merida to clatter faster each go.
I’d love to have spent some more time on the Merida and got it up some bigger hills, out on some all day epics and up to Bike Park Wales. It’s a bike I hopped on and was immediately surprised at how much fun I was having. I’m never hugely drawn to aluminium bikes … but the monster truck Merida did a damn fine job of persuading me otherwise. Can I borrow it again please, Merida?